Kant on ‘Good’, the Good, and the Duty to Promote the Highest Good

In Thomas Höwing (ed.), The Highest Good in Kant’s Philosophy. Berlin: De Gruyter. pp. 33-50 (2016)
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Abstract

Many regard Kant’s account of the highest good as a failure. His inclusion of happiness in the highest good, in combination with his claim that it is a duty to promote the highest good, is widely seen as inconsistent. In this essay, I argue that there is a valid argument, based on premises Kant clearly endorses, in defense of his thesis that it is a duty to promote the highest good. I first examine why Kant includes happiness in the highest good at all. On the basis of a discussion of Kant's distinction between 'good' and 'pleasant', and in light of his methodological comments in the second chapter of the Critique of Practical Reason, I explain how Kant’s conception of the good informs his conception of the highest good. I then argue that Kant's inclusion of happiness in the highest good should be understood in light of his claim that it is a duty to promote the happiness of others. In the final section of this essay, I reconstruct Kant’s argument for the claim that it is a duty to promote the highest good and explain in what sense this duty goes beyond observance of the Categorical Imperative.

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Pauline Kleingeld
University of Groningen

Citations of this work

Kant’s Coherent Theory of the Highest Good.Saniye Vatansever - 2021 - International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 89 (3):263-283.
What’s So Good About the Good Will? An Ontological Critique of Kant’s Axiomatic Moral Construct.Necip Fikri Alican - 2022 - Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy 18 (1):422–467.
What Should We Hope?Seniye Tilev - forthcoming - Philosophia.

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References found in this work

Two Conceptions of the Highest Good in Kant.Andrews Reath - 1988 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 26 (4):593-619.
A Commentary on Kant's Critique of Practical Reason.L. W. BECK - 1960 - Les Etudes Philosophiques 19 (3):438-439.
The Concept of the Highest Good in Kant's Moral Theory.Stephen Engstrom - 1992 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 52 (4):747-780.
Moral Faith and the Highest Good.Frederick Beiser - 2006 - In Paul Guyer (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Kant and Modern Philosophy. Cambridge University Press. pp. 588-629.

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